The mass usage of self-driving cars is a question of when, not if, and the German federal government is already drawing up ethical guidelines for the vehicles. For instance, if a car is on course to hit two people, but can swerve and hit just one, should it be programmed to do so? That’s a question that will prompt plenty of debate, but one thing is for certain: autonomous vehicles can greatly improve safety. Professional drivers will no longer have to worry about the dangers of spending the entire work day on the road, where fatal crashes are an everyday occupational hazard. This will drive the promotion of clean, futuristic taxi technology, in a way which is completely safe.
Distracted and Impaired Driving a Thing of the Past
Although instances of drunk driving and speeding are decreasing, the vast majority of crashes are due to human error. Logic would suggest that removing human drivers would therefore prevent almost all crashes. Of course, it’s not that simple. For instance, how many lives have been saved by a human spotting an obstacle and braking or swerving the vehicle? This could be a life that may have been ended by a malfunctioning machine, as happened in the case of an autonomous Uber vehicle. This is why many autonomous vehicles will begin by allowing a human to take control in an emergency.
However, it is undoubtedly true that many deaths are caused by distracted driving. Anything from alcohol to anger can cause a human to make a mistake on the roads. In the case of commercial driving, fatigue is a major concern. Work is tiring, so if you drive for a living, your chances of making a mistake increase. In the same way pilots can nap on a long haul flight, professional and commercial drivers should be able to sleep while their vehicle continues on.
While machines are yet to have as much general intelligence as humans, in many ways they far surpass us. For instance, a simple calculator can do complicated sums instantly. Machines are also able to collect data from multiple sources simultaneously in a way your average truck driver or cabbie cannot. Sensors on a car can monitor the road ahead, to the sides and behind with zero mistakes. While a human might see a shadow and think it’s a person, a robot will never succumb to such visual illusions.
Self-driving vehicles will provide a clean future, being able to run off electricity and not suffering the inefficiency of human driving. However, the biggest reason to push for their development is for the sake of human safety. Commercial drivers no longer need to worry other motorists or themselves becoming distracted and can rest easy in the company of artificially intelligent vehicles.